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House Speaker is shelving bills dealing with COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau

"There's simply not a consensus on it, just as there is not across the state of Ohio," said House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima).

Republican leaders in the Ohio House are putting the brakes on a bill that grants exemptions to people who want to opt out of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The legislation has been the big debate as House Republicans continue to fall on different sides of the issue, some GOP lawmakers said the bill doesn't go far enough and others said it puts too much regulation on businesses.

The bill, HB435, would allow students and employees, who don't work at children's hospitals or ICUs, to be exempted from COVID-19 vaccine mandates. This would apply to both the public and private sector.

Cupp said the caucus is split and cannot reach a consensus on the bill.

"We put in countless hours, not only weeks but months on this bill with all kinds of input and so it's time now to move on to other important topics that are facing Ohioans, that are before the state legislature," said Cupp.

House Republicans started the week with a plan to possibly add amendments to HB435 during committee and then send it to the House floor for a full chamber vote on Wednesday. Similar to events earlier this month, the plan to put the bill on the floor stalled just before session started because the House GOP caucus could not reach a consensus.

A new version of the bill proposed several changes. Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Twp.) said one of the amendments eliminated the provision that the bill would only apply to employees in their current place of employment on the date the bill goes into effect. The change meant exemptions would be available for new hires after the bill's effective date through September 30, 2025.

Although Cupp says the bill will not get further consideration in the near future, Carfagna believed it was the right move for the state.

"I think it's the most sensible balance between honoring somebody's individual medical freedom while allowing the employer and the school to provide for public safety and public health," said Carfagna.

House Democrats said they were unanimous in their opposition to the bill which made it harder for Republicans to find the support they needed to pass it off the floor.

The House has held long hearings on several vaccine-related bills, including one that bans all vaccine mandates, when asked if these other bills might come up Cupp repeated it's time to "move on."

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